Saturday, May 23, 2015

A David and Goliath Battle. When Britain Saved The West by Robin Prior

In the dark days of June 1940, Britain stood alone against the Germans.  Most of Europe including much of France was under German control; the British army had been expelled from Europe; the major allies were crushed, and the Dominion armies were small and distant.  Prior tells the story of how Britain overcame these terrible problems, and why he thinks that Britain and not the United States ultimately saved the West.

Historian Robin Prior gives a well-researched and well-written account of Churchill's fight against the appeasers, the fall of France and how Dunkirk inspired the British to keep going until the end.  His account of the Battle of Britain and the importance of radar and tactical skills is especially comprehensive. His discussion of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park's role is also excellent - apparently he was quite the hero! Prior explains how the British managed to win this battle even though they were often outnumbered by 8:1 and the Germans attempted to induce mass panic by the terror of the Blitz.

This is highly recommended for readers interested in the Second World War. (I received a free copy from the publisher Yale University Press via Net Galley.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Permanent Equilibrium? meQuillibrium by Jan Bruce

Amost everyone wants to find permanent equilibrium.  I doubt that this book really provides that, but I found it helpful.  It's better than most self-help books, because it does cover almost everything, including how to create a sustainable centre of calm, how to make better choices, and suggestions for how to have a good sleep.  I didn't agree with one suggestion - don't read in bed! It might work, but I think that I'd rather read in bed than improve my sleep, anyway!

The chapters that contain unusual advice are the ones on identifying 'iceberg' beliefs that cause big emotional outbursts and how finding the meaning behind tasks makes you feel better about them.  For example, paying the bills helps keep your family secure.

This is worth buying and keeping, because I can practically guarantee that most readers will want more than 14 days to practise these helpful stress-relieving skills!

The SFP LookBook: Atelier to Runway New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015Andrea Kiliany Thatcher, Morgan Beye

(Nancy Cunard)

I recommend this book highly for anyone interested in the latest styles, because it includes fascinating insights into the inspirations of the designers, information about hairstyles and accessories, and glimpses into what goes on backstage, as well as stunning fashion photos. The striking florals of Carolina Herrera, the wild vintage-influenced outfits of Betsy Johnson, and the floaty and feminine dresses of Badgley Mischka can all be found here.
This LookBook will also be extremely useful for budding designers with its quotations and its stories about muses.  For example,  there is an interview with Bibhu Mohapatra about her muse, Nancy Cunard, and how Nancy fought against racism and Fascism and wore unusual styles.

If only I could keep this book of beautiful photos, but it is on loan from Net Galley.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

London Tides by Carla Laureano

I loved Five Days in Skye, so I snapped this up when it was offered to me through Net Galley. However, I am finding it difficult to get into, unfortunately. I think that it's a just a bit too hip and young for me, and it isn't as Christian as Carla Laureano's first novel in the series. However, I will try again!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends by Mary Claire Kendall

(Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in Mr Deeds Goes To Town.

Hollywood is a deeply spiritual place, surprisingly.  This interesting and well-written book about stars who converted to Catholicism reflects this little-known aspect of a place commonly regarded as frivolous and silly.

Mary Claire Kendall's book includes several fascinating anecdotes, such as Hitchcock's moving deathbed confession, Gary Cooper's dropping rosaries at the Pope's feet, and Bob Hope's wife praying for him every day. It is often harrowing to read, however, because the stories of these movie-stars include so many bad marriages, and several of them became addicted to drink or drugs.  Mary Astor's tale of sorrow is especially upsetting.  However, most of them overcame their troubles with the help of the Church and lived long lives.  For example, Bob Hope lived until 93.

This inspiring book is the perfect combination for people who like to read  about Hollywood and Catholicism!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Audrey and Bill by Edward Z Epstein

This is a great book to read for anyone interested in these two wonderful stars. Although well-written and interesting, it certainly contains lots of details about what went on behind the scenes of the movies, and Audrey Hepburn's and Bill Holden's sparkling, but star-crossed love affair. Be warned - sometimes neither of them is very likeable. For example, Holden was promiscuous and drank. I think that his habit of taking his mistresses home to meet his wife was odd, to say the least! Audrey Hepburn was romantically involved with a married man with three children, which is not to be praised. It's hardly unusual, however, and she certainly did a lot of good works.

I didn't realise that Humphrey Bogart didn't like either of them and gave them a hard time during the making of Sabrina. This appears to be common knowledge, however.

Die-hard fans may not learn anything new from this book, but I found it highly enjoyable!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Rise of Thomas Cromwell Power and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII, 1485-1534 by Michael Ever

Portrait of Cromwell by Hans Holbein, the Younger

This is an extremely dry but thoroughly researched account of Thomas Cromwell that dispels several myths.  Apparently, he didn't rise to fame because of the 'Great Matter' - instead the King was impressed with his administrative and legal skills, especially when he worked on land exchanges and other matters concerning lands.  His influential friends also helped.  However, there is evidence that he was corrupt, so the tales about his being a 'Master Manipulator' are not completely wrong.

Cromwell has often been depicted as a radical religious reformer, but there is little evidence for this. Although he dissolved monasteries, he was friends with Catholics, and there are indications that he held some conservative Catholic beliefs himself.

This book concerns his work, not his personal life.  Cromwell still remains rather mysterious.  I would only recommend it for people who are very interested in the Tudors, or students of Tudor history at school or university.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lone Star by Paullina Simons

I usually like Paullina Simons's books, but I found it too difficult to get into this one.  The main character, Chloe, is only 18 and lives in an American backwater, although she isn't poor.  She and her friends share a dream of going to Barcelona, and they decide to enter a writing competition to get the money to go.  Chloe has a few problems, however - her parents don't want her to go and her friend Hannah is having an affair with a much older married man, even though she has a boyfriend.

I think that the characters are just too young and silly, and the writing is a bit 'slangy'.  This got on my nerves.  I also found Chloe a bit selfish and she seemed to be intent on getting what she wanted at all costs.  However, maybe it's her youth that's my problem.

Lone Star by Paullina Simons
576 pages
William Morrow Paperbacks

Thank you to Net Galley for providing me with an advance copy of the book.